Photo: Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated/The MMQB
There’s a big football game Sunday. But instead of writing about Liverpool FC’s visit to Manchester United, I give you refreshing NFL playoff notes. #YNWA
-- Le’Veon Bell said he’s changing football like Steph Curry changed basketball. I have no idea what he means. If Bell thinks that young running backs will mimic his tap-dancing at the line of scrimmage ‘til a hole develops, a lot of young backs are going to get concussed and a lot of youth football coaches will go hoarse from screaming expletives. That style works for Bell, and nobody else.
-- Bell is a bigger Barry Sanders. Sanders won zilch. But bigger is better.
-- Bell has 1,002 rushing yards over his last seven games. That’s Jim Brown dipped in O.J. Simpson. Kansas City’s run defense ranks 26th. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley must make the Chiefs stop Bell early and often. I bet they can’t.
-- The Steelers can’t give Bell a long-term contract no matter how the season concludes. Not after pot suspensions in consecutive seasons. Use the franchise tag until Bell’s wheels fall off. Bell will reap exactly what he sowed, both good and bad.
-- Alex Smith is the NFL’s best mediocre quarterback. Smith takes little risk, reaps solid reward, and his performance accelerates statistically in the playoffs. If Kansas City loses to the Steelers, it won’t be Smith’s fault.
-- If the Chiefs win, it’s easy to imagine tight end Travis Kelce manhandling that Steelers defense over the course of 60 minutes. It’s also easy to imagine the explosive Tyreek Hill using a singular moment to destroy the Steelers’ season via a kick return or a jet sweep. Otherwise, it’s difficult to imagine Kansas City winning.
-- Hill is under fire because domestic abuse committed against his pregnant girlfriend two years ago is being rehashed by the media. That’s an unforgivable act, but why now? Sports Illustrated’s cover story on the “polarizing” Roethlisberger is likewise pointless. The legal system draws conclusions, but the news industry keeps recycling.
-- Crazy stat No. 1: Over the last two seasons, Roethlisberger is 10-2 at home, but 9-7 on the road. He has thrown 38 touchdowns and 14 interceptions at home, 15 TDs and 17 picks on the road. There’s no good reason for that disparity. It’s utterly inexplicable.
-- Crazy stat No. 2: Kansas City coach Andy Reid is 16-2 coming off a regular-season bye week. He’s 3-0 in second-round playoff games after a first-round bye.
-- Is Reid a better coach than Mike Tomlin? Tomlin has a Super Bowl ring, and Reid doesn’t. But Reid’s teams are very consistently better than the sum of the parts. That’s a claim Tomlin can’t always (or often) make.
-- Regarding the #FreePeezy hashtag campaign: When was the last time Pittsburgh got upset about a black man that appeared to be wrongly arrested and/or treated unfairly by police? Make it a habit if you like, because it happens all the time.
-- If Joey Porter is serious about a coaching career, it might be better for all concerned if he pursued it elsewhere. As long as Porter is with the Steelers, he’ll act like a player. He comes off like a mascot. His credibility is constantly compromised.
-- Kevin Greene campaigning via Twitter to slide in and take Porter’s job shows a great deal of concern by Greene – for Greene. Typical.
-- The Steelers were likely to bid sayonara to Lawrence Timmons, 30, after this season. But Timmons has played superbly (114 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble during the regular season), and his partnership with Ryan Shazier at inside ‘backer has flourished. The Steelers need to bring back Timmons for 2017, even if it means paying more than they might like.
-- Quarterback Dak Prescott said being biracial has helped him be a better leader with Dallas. Winning 13 games has helped him a lot more. However subtly, Prescott’s proclamation acknowledges the racial divide in every NFL locker room.
-- Odell Beckham Jr. is correct: No logical connection can be drawn between the New York Giants’ receivers boating at Miami on an off-day and a host of passes being dropped at Green Bay a week later. But since when did logic matter? Anyway, the trip wasn’t the problem. It was that photo.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).